By Leslie Ken Chu
Yukon Blonde’s upcoming fourth album Critical Hit is more than the story of a relationship’s lifespan. “If there was anything to really tie it together, ‘communication breakdown’ was a term we actually used a lot,” singer Jeffrey Innes says. “It’s something that’s on everyone’s minds, like, how do we take a step back and listen to each other in the world right now?”
The digital age boasts abundant platforms on which people can connect. “There’s so much content out there. People are on the internet all day,” Innes says. “But do people retain any of that? Do people actually have lasting bonds with people? We’re not really paying attention to each other. Everybody’s just talking and showing their peacock feathers.”
Yukon Blonde have shown off many rock guises throughout their lifespan — anthemic folk, shimmering pop, riff-heavy vintage. On Critical Hit though, they’ve dived into synthesizers, an instrument he’s always been attracted to. His high school music collection included Air, Broadcast, Nine Inch Nails and Boards of Canada. Unsurprisingly, these artists inspired him to compose electronic scores for his student films.
Like a film, Critical Hit is divided into a beginning, middle, and end. The album starts with the joy of discovering new love in a new city in a new country. Innes wrote in real-time as his relationship, which led him to live between Galiano Island and Madrid, progressed – and subsequently dissolved. Some songs fall out of the record’s general narrative though, like “Love the Way You Are”. Here, he expresses his appreciation of a creative friend who felt objectified and mistreated for being a woman.
Critical Hit is intensely personal but sarcastic and witty at the same time. “I’ve never been able to write an earnest lyric in my life,” he says with a laugh. “It’s really hard to say how you feel directly.” Seriousness might turn off some audiences, but humour can entertain while provoking thought. “I think satire is one of our stronger suits. Ironically, it’s sort of driven out of fear, but it ends up being our calling card.”
Some songs don’t fit Critical Hit’s narrative because the album is the band’s most collaborative offering yet. Members James Younger and Brandon Scott in particular have been writing more for their own projects. They’ve also been recording more at home. Naturally, they began contributing more to Yukon Blonde. The band ended up with so much material that they originally wanted to do a double album.
This ambition is a far cry from the burnout Yukon Blonde faced after 2012’s Tiger Talk. “Like, we stopped doing the band,” Innes says. They rebounded with On Blonde three years later. But despite their renewed interest in pursuing music together, they faced a bit if a business crisis. “We lost our manager. We owed a whole bunch of money. We worked so hard over the course of that record and we ended up so broke, and I was like, ‘How the hell is this possible?’” confesses Innes.
Eager to avoid their past mistakes, Yukon Blonde have been focusing less on business moves – what they’re supposed to say on social media, whom they’re supposed to tour with – and more on “living life, being creative, having fun, [and] enjoying each other’s company.” Now, “We’re making music that’s closer to the music that we want to make more than ever.”
Not only has Innes found an affordable space to live, write, and record on Galiano Island (unlike in Vancouver), he has found scenic views, right from his beachside apartment. “Whoa, man! Sorry, I got really distracted,” he exclaims mid-thought. “I saw a whale!” Like his band, his island dwelling is something he’ll work to hold on to for as long as he can.
Yukon Blonde perform at Skookum Festival (Vancouver) on September 9.Skookum Festival, Yukon Blonde